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2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic - Dance and Pairs Finals


by Alexandra Stevenson

Sensational Performances by U.S. Champions Meryl Davis & Charlie Davis indicate Strong Likelihood for Gold in Sochi

1.  Overall 183.69; 1.Free Dance 110.02 (53.17+57.85 -1); Meryl Davis & Charlie White took the sport to a new technical peak bringing this second annual event to a stunning close with a four minute program set to grippingly emotional music composed by Rimsky Korsakov, the immortal “Sheherazade”. There is little doubt that the couple, and their trainer, Marina Zoueva, have created a fantastically difficult routine which can be challenged by only one other couple in the world, and this Canadian duo is also trained by Zoueva, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. The Canadians, however, are not expected to debut their routines until the Finlandia Trophy in October.

Davis was dressed minimally, in lots of sparkling illusion material with a light blue basis. That was perfectly in keeping with her role. White, attired in teal velvet with elaborate embroidery on his back, is a bored Shah, who marries one of his subjects every day and has her head cut off the following morning, before taking the next bride later that day.

Davis outwits him by spinning a mesmerizing tale that is still incomplete when the sun comes up the following morning, so he chooses to keep her for another day. After many, many nights of entertaining stories, she gets a permanent reprieve.

Davis revealed an interesting background fact in the press conference afterwards. Most ice dancers might think about what kind of music they want the following season, but they do not actually start working on the project until the season begins, and sometimes lose a lot of time because they can’t get the music just right.

But not this team! “Charlie and I were really excited to debut this program. It’s a program we have kind of been crafting with Marina for a couple of years now, with some of the elements, and the music is something we’ve been thinking about for a while. Debuting it was a really exciting thing for us. It’s an incredibly challenging program so we are a little bit on the tired side at the end. We think that’s good. We think it’s going to be a great vehicle for us moving forward.”

Amazingly, White added, “The amount of potential it (the program) still has is staggering. For us, we are thrilled with how we put it out there tonight. We worked hard to get to the point where it’s at now but we feel very strongly that it’s going to grow immeasurably and I think that’s part of what’s so exciting about competing this program, just knowing how far we can take it.

Davis contends, “This is just the beginning. I think we are going to work on everything from the technical aspect, making sure all the lifts and footwork look really solid, to getting a chance to train to the point where we can showcase our skating skills without having to worry through every element.”

White explained that even they, with their unmatched physical prowess, have room for improvement, “Sometimes an element will feel like we showed a Level 4 (technically the maximum possible) but there are several things the judges will comment on that could have brought you down to a three. All we can ever do is the best that we can and train as hard as we can and leave it all out on the ice which I think we were able to do today.

“Were we perfect on every edge? I don’t think so. But we tried really hard and I’m proud of that.”

Davis, possibly politely being a little overly kind to her competitors, said, “All the teams are just so impressive. There is so much depth in the ice dance world now, not just in one area of the world but totally internationally, which is so exciting for us. These young teams or teams that we have been skating with for a long time, we take inspiration from all of them. It’s equally as much of an honor for us”.

They opened with a Level 4 curve lift which earned an extra +1.33 Grade of Execution. (Three out of the five judges gave the maximum +3 Grade of Execution and the other two gave +2.) Then came Level 3, +2.00 Circular steps for which one judge punched in the maximum +3 and the rest +2.

Their spectacular straight line to rotational lift earned Level 4 with +2.00 extra on the base value of eight full points with three judges giving the maximum +3 and the other two awarding +2. Their combination spin along with their twizzles were both rewarded with Level 4. The spin received an extra +1.17 (with one judge giving the maximum +3, and the others +2), and the twizzles got a full extra 1.0 with one judge giving +3, three punching in +2 but one giving only +1, which is still means superior to the base value.

The Diagonal steps were Level 3 with 3.00 full points extra, which comprised four of the maximum +3s and only one +2! They concluded with the brief choreographed lift, which received huge applause from audience. The seating capacity was very small which meant although the event was televised by icenetwork.com, only a relative few got to witness this wonderful ground-breaking performance in person.

Each of the five judges also punched in five component scores. One judge thought Davis & White were worthy of the maximum 10 for both the Composition/Choreography section and for the Interpretation/Timing. Two others gave the maximum for the C/C. None of the judges went below 9.25 and the three judges who punched that mark in, gave it for the other three categories.

To bring the skaters back down to earth, however, they did lose a point for one lift going over the allocated time.

This correspondent does not remember being so awestruck by a season’s debut performance since Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean unveiled their Bolero routine for the 1984 season at the British championship, but that was possibly influenced partly by the shock of seeing them lie on the ice for so long at the beginning and breaking so many rules!

The only male twice Olympic ice dance gold medalist, Evgeni Platov (1994 & 1998 with Oksana Gritschuk), who was in Salt Lake coaching the British champions, said he thinks that Davis & White’s choice of music is a stroke of genius. He explained, “This music, written by a Russian, is extremely popular in Russia. In Sochi the audience will undoubtedly go wild as soon as it starts playing.”

2.  Overall 161.99; 2.FD 99.38 (49.33+50.05) Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are six-times Canadian national silver medalists (behind Virtue & Moir). She is originally from Houston, Texas but went to Canada to seek a partner and they have been together since August 2006.

They now train at the Detroit SC, and have just survived an unfortunate season when she broke her ankle and had to have more surgery this past summer to remove a plate and five screws.

They gained the maximum Level 4 for six elements with both set of steps Level 3. However, they received only one +3 Grade of Execution, which was for their choreographed short lift which has no other Level than 1.

Weaver explained, “This competition was a test for my foot and it felt great. “We’ve never competed this early in the season so it’s nice to get these programs out there. Now we have five weeks before our next competition to clean up the programs.

Poje added, “Last year we had some bumps in the road. Those challenges have actually made us a stronger team. It showed us what we are capable of.”

They performed to “Maria de Buenos Aires”. Poje admitted, “It was a little hard today because it’s so early in the season. Putting it out there so early is new for us, we still have to develop the program, develop our stamina and the finishing touches to the program. We are really happy with the performance and where we started off the season.”

Weaver said, “This Olympic year, I feel, is somewhat of a redemption year. That last Olympics, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the team, which became somewhat obsessive. That wasn’t much fun. This is what we do as a career. It’s fun for us. We learned our lesson then, so this year, we’re not doing much different in terms of our own work ethic. We are adding more hours, more dance classes, but we’re enjoying it. That’s very important so we can look back on this time and be happy.”

3.  Overall 137.60; 3.FD 82.96 (41.67+42.29 -1 for an extended lift) Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams are the 2011 Canadian Junior champions who have made fast progress on the senior scene, placing 6th in 2012 and winning bronze in their national championship earlier this year. She turns 21 on October 10. He is 22. They performed to four pieces from Webber’s Love Never Dies: Beneath the Moonless Sky; Coney Island Waltz; Heaven by the Sea; and Till I Hear You Sing.

Orford said, “It feels good (to win bronze) and get our programs out in front of international judges. We are very happy with this kind of start to the season. There are still things to work on but overall it was a good experience.” Williams added, “The performance level was there. We stayed engaged with the judges and ourselves. But, we know we are going to have to push harder against a very deep field if we want to earn that chance to wear the Canadian uniform in Sochi.”

She continued, “There are a lot of teams in Canada fighting for that third Olympic spot. We’re working as hard as we can. We are getting lots of outside help with acting coaches, ballroom dance teachers, and Broadway performance teachers.”

He agreed, “Our coaches are doing a good job of keeping us on track and helping make sure we are doing everything we need to do, and tell us to remember where and when we should rest and recover. They are doing a great job of steering us to our goals.”

4.  Overall 134.48; 4.FD 81.45 (42.83+40.62 -2 for two extended lifts) Lynn Kriengkrairut, from Bismarck, N.D. & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, from Oak Park, Ill, have moved to train in Novi, Mich. with Igor Shpilband. They climbed two places from their SD position performing to music from the ballet “Spartacus”. They earned five Level 4s. The circular steps and twizzles were Level 3 but the final element, the diagonal steps were only Level 2.

Kriengkrairut admitted, “It’s a lot different for us in our new training environment but it’s been positive. We’ve had a lot of input from different coaches that have helped various aspects of our skating. It’s still a work in progress but we are happy with the changes we have made so far. We need to continue to work on the overall package. There is a lot to work on in both programs. Technical stuff is something we need to work on and we need to focus on our levels in our foot work. It’ll keep growing from here.”

Giulietti-Schmitt agreed, “It is a lot different but still pretty comfortable. Our programs are a lot freer this year. We feel like we have the ability to move across the ice a lot better. Today was not our best performance. We know it’s already an improvement from Lake Placid (the summer Dance competition) so we’re happy with that.”

5.  Overall 133.41; 5.FD 79.44 (38.32+42.12 -1 for a fall) Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland are the twice British champions, who train in the US. They were disappointed that they received only Level 1 for the lift in the Short Dance, but they were still lying only a fraction behind third at that point and hoped to gain a medal.

But, right from the start of the Free, they just were just NOT “on”. They have an ambitious Michael Jackson routine but, as the music started, while they were in their opening pose, he fell. “I don’t know what happened,” he said latter, shaking his head. I was just about to move and I fell backwards. It was a bit of a shake-up!”

Their beginning long lift and the curve lift earned Level 4. However the Midline & Circular steps, as well as the spin were only Level 2. They dropped a place.

6.  Overall 132.34; 6 FD 78.59 (38.80+39.79) Juliya Zlobina & Alexsei Sitnikov, Azerbaijan, presented a routine to music from the movie, “Pina”, which the German former world pair champions, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy introduced to the skating world. They dropped a place.

There was change in placements only the top six places.

7.  Overall 133.41; 7.FD 72.91 (37.36+37.55 -2 for extended lifts) Isabella Tobias & Stagniunas Deividas, Lithuania, presented an entertaining routine to music used for the James Bond movie, Skyfall.

8.  Overall 119.34; 8.FD 71.27 (34.86+37.41 -1 for an extended lift) Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus, USA, gave a lively showing to “An American in Paris. Cannuscio said, “Other than level stuff, the competition went really well for us. We had fun and showed our programs for the season. I had a lot of fun and I feel like we expressed them well which is what we wanted to do.

“This year being so difficult - especially with such a deep field in dance - this year we wanted to take this event to show what we have been working on. We presented that well and that’s something positive for us. We’re a young team compared to the likes of Meryl and Charlie who have been around for what seems like such a long time. I think this year is another big stepping stone for us.”

Cannuscio added, “We know being sixth-ranked in the country, the Olympics are a far shot. We are hoping to get Four Continents next spring. We want to continue to improve. We don’t want to be forgotten and want to be considered for assignments next season, the season after, whatever may come. We are going to keep doing what we do.”

9.  Overall 114.48; 9.FD 68.26 (35.56+32.70) Justyna Polutowska & Peter Gerber, Poland, interpreted music from Bource’s soundtract of “The Artist”.

10.  Overall 113.49; 10.FD 68.26 (35.56+32.70) Allison Reed & Vasili Rogov, Israel, skated to “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

11.  Overall 109.70; 11.FD 67.55 (34.53+33.02) Angelina Teleginal & Otar Japaridze, Georgia, skated to “Building the Bullet” by Bacalov; “Oblivion” by Kremer; and “Concierto Para Quintet” by Piazzzola.

12.  Overall 106.13; 12.FD 64.98 (35.29 +30.69 -1 for an extended lift) Federica Bernandi & Christopher Mior, Italy, used Hisaishe’s “Howl’s Moving Castle”.

13.  Overall 100.31; 13.FD 62.30 (28.57+33.73) Alissandra Aronow & Collin Brubaker, USA, who performed to the music for “Love Story”, were very happy to be competing in their first international and with how they skated. He said “We are excited. It feels good to be done. Now we have to go back and see what we can do to improve things. Overall, we are pleased with our performances here.”

14.  Overall 92.26; 14.FD 56.68 (28.87+27.81) Pilar & Leonardo Maekawa, Mexico, skated to music from “The Night Before Christmas”.

Pairs Free Skate

1.  Overall 201.30; 1.FS 132.78 (68.51+64.27) Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch, from Waterloo in Ontario, have had a bit of an up-and-down career. They teamed up in the spring of 2009. She is 21 and he will turn 29 on September 23. They have competed in the world championships twice finishing eighth in 2011 and fourth last March. They won their nationals in 2011 after being fifth the year before but were subsequently fourth in 2012 and then earned silver last season and got to Worlds, to compete not far from their own training grounds. They are coached by Kris & Kristy Wirtz.

Their Free was set to a medley of music from Fellini’s movies. Moore-Towers joked, “We made it exciting with some trouble on our last lift, but Dylan showed great strength to pull us through. It’s only the second time we had performed this program and our performance tonight bodes well for the rest of the season.

He said, “The program felt really great. I was expecting the altitude (4,300 feet) to be more of a problem than it was. The elements felt very comfy. I think it was a good building block going into the Grand Prixs. We have been training very well and very hard. I knew after the way it felt last year to add some extra cardio to the repertoire. It felt very good right up to the end. That program, no matter how hard I train it, is always hard at the end and it’s built that way. It was harder than it would have been at home. Our training came through. It was good for this point in the season.”

All their elements received positive Grades of Execution apart from the final lift which earned just the base value. They opened their routine with a Level 2 triple twist, followed by a sequence of two triple toe loops, and side-by-side triple Salchows. Their back outside death spiral was Level 3 and the pair spin, the maximum level 4. At the halfway point where the 10% bonus marks click in, they executed a throw triple loop and later another throw, a triple Salchow. After the loop, they soared through two lifts.Then came a flying change foot camel spin Level 3. After the second throw they finished with a Group 3 Level 3 on which they had a little difficulty.controlling the landing.

2.  Overall 188.47; 2.FS 126.81 (65.35+61.46) Caydee Denney & John Coughlin, who train with Dalilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, performed to “Phantom of the Opera” with no trouble with the altitude since their home site is far higher.

Coughlin, who is 27, said, “It was a lot of fun. We could feel everybody supporting us. I also feel like the crowd realized it was our first time back out there. We felt the audience behind us. Caydee and I took a minute afterwards to recognize the reception after the short program, and we got that feeling again after the Free. We needed to relax and trust what we have always done.”

Last December, he had hip surgery to repair a torn left labrum. That meant they could not defend their U.S. title. Despite going through an intense recovery overseen by the Olympic Training Center, they were unable to compete in the 2013 world championships. But they now seem to be skating as well as ever.

Denney, 20, explained, “From every competition there is always something to grow on within the actual program itself. We have a lot of time before Skate America where we really want to be lights out for the fans and ourselves. We know that the better we can make the program, the better we can be.”

They opened their Free with a Level 3 triple twist which was so good it earned three of the maximum +3 Grades of Execution. Then came a +0.93 throw triple loop and +0.47 side by side triple toe loops. But then they lost marks with doing a combo of single Axel to double toe loop to double toe loop. The flying combo camel spin was rewarded with +0.50 over its base value

At the halfway point an Axel Lasso lift received the maximum Level 4 and the time bonus. That was followed by a throw triple flip which earned an extra 1.40. Another lift got an extra +0.93. The back outside death spiral gained a small 0.23 over its Level 3 base value. Then came the final lift, so well brought off, one judge gave +3 GoE. They brought this exciting showing to a conclusion with a Level 3 spin, with +0.67 above its base value. Their component scores were 61.46 compared to the winners’ 64.27.

3.  Overall 167.27; 1.FS 106.96 (54.22+53.74 -1 for a fall) Tarah Kayne, a 20-year-old from Fort Myers, and Daniel O’Shea, 22, from Gurnee, Illinois, train in Ellenton with Jim Peterson’s group. They were 7th in this past U.S. championship. They skated to music from the ballet, Don Quixote. She fell on a throw triple loop and there were lots of small errors but they skated with gusto and obvious joy.

She explained, “We’re trying a pretty new element for us, the triple Salchow-triple Salchow sequence. This is the first competition we’ve accomplished that so we started off the program very pleased. We need to keep moving no matter what obstacles we face. We have fought injuries and other obstacles and we kept pushing through no matter how hard it’s been. I feel our performance this week shows that hard work pays off.”

He admitted, “I was a little disappointed in myself. I made some silly mistakes, hand down on both jumps. It could have been cleaner but I’m happy with how we performed and didn’t let little mistakes affect the program as a whole.”

4.  Overall 165.91; FS 103.65 (52.32+53.33 -2 for two falls) Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir, who train in Boston, were not pleased with their routine set to music from “Skyfall”. She admitted “It just wasn’t good. It wasn’t our day. We need to focus our side-by-side jumps. That’s something we need to tackle. We did double toes because we were working on doing that quad (throw quad Salchow), but we need to go back to our jumps. We will have the throw quad Salchow for Skate America. We are taking little steps every day. I’ve been standing up on most of them and we need to keep on working it.”

He agreed with his partner. “We’re disappointed. That’s not what we wanted to put out. We had a couple falls and just didn’t feel strong today. I felt confident going in but I didn’t execute. We have to go back and keep training hard.”

5.  Overall 155.00; FS 95.70 (47.11+49.59 -1) Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers, Canada, had a performance best quickly forgotten. The opened with a single toe loop, but did manage the following triple twist Level 1. However, they got no marks for the following Axel sequence. Their flying camel combination spin earned Level 4, with +0.50, but their back outside death spiral was only Level 1.Their Level 3 lift was good with +0.83. After a flawed triple loop, they did a +0.93 Axel Lasso lift and a Group 4 lift which earned an extra 0.33. Then came her fall on a throw triple flip. Their final move was a good Level 3 combination spin. It certainly wasn’t the showing they wanted, but it certainly did not approach some of the catastrophies this writer has seen in world championships.

6.  Overall 133.07; FS 89.37 (49.91 +39.46) Andrea Davidovich & Evgeni Krasnopolski, Israel, performed to “Romeo & Juliet” and made no major errors.

7.  Overall 130.20 total; FS 79.97 (37.70+42.27) Felicia Zhang, who will turn 20 on September 22, is from Plainsboro, N.J. Her partner, Nathan Bartholomay, is a 24-year- old from Newtown, Pa. They train in Ellenton, Fla. They were third in the U.S. championships but they completely missed two lifts late in their program which cost them a huge number of points.

Bartholomay explained, “There are a lot of technical points in the program and we lost a lot of them today. The routine (which is set to Les Miserables) is laid out perfectly. We had some bumps and hitches in training. We weren’t trying to peak here, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere close to where we wanted to be. This time we showed that we’re a little human with the mistakes. It’s not what we wanted. We ended strong. That’s been a big thing in our training. If this doesn’t happen every once in a while, you’re not going to learn. We’re going to take it and learn then peak later in the season.”

Zhang added, “We’re going to go full out everytime. I think we did attack. We got distracted after the first lift but then we got back on track and landed the throw Salchow. Going into the last lift, there were tracking mishaps.”

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